CAPE TOWN, June 3 The head of Germany's
Lufthansa eased open the door to rival Gulf carriers on Monday,
saying he would not rule out future commercial ties with one of
the region's heavyweight airlines.
Lufthansa, a leading member of the Star Alliance grouping of
airlines, has criticized the market power of fast-growing Gulf
airlines and is locked in a dispute with Dubai's Emirates over
the latter's bid to gain more access to German airports.
After a period of rapid standalone growth, Gulf airlines
have started forging links with carriers including Lufthansa's
two main European network rivals.
Qatar Airways plans to join oneworld, which includes British
Airways, Abu Dhabi's Etihad has forged several
codeshare agreements with Skyteam member Air France
and Emirates has agreed to co-operate with Australia's Qantas.
"It was interesting for us, and has also drawn a lot of
attention, that the philosophies of the Gulf carriers seem to
have been modified," Lufthansa Chief Executive Christoph Franz
"We are observing and at the end of the day, if there are
future circumstances in which Lufthansa could benefit from any
kind of relationship, then why not -- but there is no rush."
He was speaking as airlines meeting in Cape Town put the
finishing touches to an agreement to co-operate on reducing
emissions, in a deal backed by European and Gulf carriers.
In an interview, Franz also said Lufthansa is in
"advanced discussions" with Airbus and Boeing to
buy around 50 long-haul jets.
The German airline is evaluating Boeing's 777 and 787
families, including a new stretched version of the 787
Dreamliner, and the Airbus A350, he said.
He predicted a decision in the second half of the year,
effectively ruling out Lufthansa emerging as a launch customer
for the latest 787 model at the June 17-23 Paris air show.